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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

They prohibited Rothmann preaching


The

last months of 1532 saw Rothmann and the Lutheran Town Council facing each other with growing mutual suspicion. On Dec. 8th, a journeyman smith, Johann Schroeder, began preaching Anabaptist doctrines in the churchyard of St. Lambert's, and challenged the Lutheran pastor, Fabricius, to a disputation. This was more than the Town Council could endure. They prohibited Rothmann preaching, and declared that they withdrew their protection--a sentence of virtual outlawry (Dec. 11th). He calmly told the messenger of the Council that he depended on the help of higher powers than his masters, and preached publicly in the Church of St. Servatius. Schroeder had begun to preach again, and was apprehended. The "gild" of the smiths rose, and, headed by their officials, forced the Council to release their comrade. The Anabaptists and Rothmann had won a notable triumph, which was soon widely known. Banished Anabaptist pastors returned to the town.

Events marched quickly thereafter. Bartholomaeus Boekbinder and Willem de Kuiper, sent by Jan Matthys, appeared in Muenster (Jan. 5th, 1533). We can infer what their message was from what followed. Rothmann denounced the Council and its Lutheran preachers. Riots were the consequence, many of the rioters being women, among whom the nuns of the Ueberwasser convent were conspicuous. It was declared that all believers ought to be rebaptized, and that a list of the faithful ought to be made. The document contained fourteen

hundred names within eight days. The mass of the people enthusiastically believed in the near approach of the Day of the Lord.

Soon afterwards (Jan. 13th, 1533), Jan Bockelson (John of Leyden) entered the town. He was the favourite disciple and _alter ego_ of Jan Matthys. He brought with him the famous Twenty-one Articles, and called upon the faithful to unite themselves into a compact organisation pledged to carry them out. He was received with enthusiasm.

The Council, feeling their helplessness, appealed to the Bishop, who contented himself with ordering them to execute the imperial mandate against Anabaptists. He was as much incensed against the Lutherans as against the Anabaptists, and hoped that the two parties would destroy themselves. Within the town, Anabaptists fought with the combined Evangelicals and Romanists, and on two occasions the tumults were succeeded by truces which guaranteed full liberty of worship to all persons (Jan. 28th and Feb. 9th). Then the Council abandoned the struggle. The principal Burgomaster, Tylbeck, was baptized, and Van der Wieck, with many of the principal citizens, left the town. Van der Wieck fell into the hands of the Bishop, who slaughtered him barbarously.

A new Council, entirely Anabaptist, was elected, with Bernardin Knipperdolling and Gerhard Kibbenbroick, a leading merchant, as Burgomasters (Feb. 28th). The complete rule of the Anabaptists had begun. This date also marks the beginning of the investment of the city by the Bishop's troops. It should never be forgotten, as it frequently is, that during the _whole_ period of Anabaptist domination in Muenster the town was undergoing the perils of a siege, and that military considerations _had_ to be largely kept in mind. Nor should it be forgotten that during its existence the Bishop's troops were murdering in cold blood every Anabaptist they could lay their hands on.


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